About Cari Zall

Cari Zall has been a Social Sciences educator for over 12 years, in both brick & mortar and online environments. She currently works as the Curriculum and Instructional Support Manager for an online high school dropout recovery program, and is the Assignment Editor and a writer for The Educator’s Room, an online education magazine. Cari is certified in Gamification and has worked on several projects incorporating Gamification into online and traditional education environments. Her areas of expertise include Gamification and Student Resilience & Motivation; Conflict Resolution & Collaboration, and social justice education. Prior to her teaching career, Cari worked for 15 years in civil litigation and as a human rights activist in Northern Ireland and Washington, DC. She holds a BA in Conflict Analysis & Resolution, an Masters in Teaching, and an MA in Political Science. Cari is a James Madison Fellow, and is the author of the book, How to Finish the Test When Your Pencil Breaks: A Teacher Faces Layoff, Unemployment and a Career Shift. You can finder her on twitter at @teachacari.

Teachers are among the many casualties of this faltering economy, especially young, motivated teachers.  So many promising educators –who have chosen a career path of little financial reward because they want to help growing young minds — are waiting in the wings, wondering when they’ll get their opportunity.   Those new teachers now must compete with teachers like me, who have been laid off because districts can no longer afford to keep the amount of teachers that would create a reasonable student-teacher ratio.  With an average of 6-7,000 teachers per state laid off in the last three years (many more in larger states, of course), it’s getting harder and harder to enter (or re-enter) the field.

Since the 2008 economic crash, the state revenue that districts rely on dried up very quickly.  But this in itself is a symptom of one of the major myths Americans often believe about education.  In this column, I thought I’d lay out three of these major myths that are affecting the employment of good teachers.  Looking deeper into what we believe about education will give us more to consider when we think about the conditions both employed and unemployed teachers face in the U.S.


Myth #1: Education is a right.  In fact, there is no constitutional right to an education in the United States at the federal level.  Though most democratic constitutions that are modeled after ours list education in their Bills of Rights, the U.S. has never constitutionally addressed the issue.  What this means, at a very basic level, is that the federal government is not required to provide for the protection or preservation of education (specifically, there is no mandate to fund it).  There are wildly differing expenditures on education at local levels.  For example, Mississippi spends about $7500 per student, while New York averages around $16,000 per student.  Each state also has different constitutional and legislative priorities when it comes to funding education.  In 1973, the Supreme Court specifically stated in a case called Gonzales v. San Antonio, that there is no “inherent right to an education” in the U.S. Constitution, and therefore the federal government is under no obligation to mitigate inequalities in funding or conditions amongst the states and districts.  Because of this, there is no nationwide ability or mandate to recruit or retain good teachers in the public education system, and no way to equalize funding (or pay) for all schools.


Click here for myth #2.

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